The heart of the home deserves better-than-builder-grade lighting.BY AMY MITCHELLJUL 9, 2019
Good lighting works wonders—for your complexion, your mood, and yes, for your kitchen. And there’s no room in the house that begs for an excellent lighting plan more than the kitchen. For starters, you need to see what you’re doing (knives! fire! hot pans!). But the kitchen is also the heart of the home. It’s the spot where you likely start your day (gotta have that cup of joe before listening to, looking at, or speaking to anyone, am I right?). It’s the room where some of the best memories are made—baking cookies, preparing a special birthday dinner (with cake!), picking up where you left off with your best friend over a glass of wine. It’s a tall order, but the kitchen needs to be practical and look amazing.
Not to get too dark here (ha!), but the lighting stakes in the kitchen are higher than a lot of other home decorating endeavors. To properly illuminate all of the precious moments above, remember that installing light fixtures often requires an electrician (read: more expensive and permanent than, say, throw pillows), so you want to get it right. Lucky for homeowners, lighting options are seemingly endless—pendants, sconces, chandeliers, under counter, recessed, track, lamps—with a gazillion style options and price ranges to boot.
Playing it safe with a pair of practical, store-bought pendants over the kitchen island is fine, but we’re here to show you that taking a risk with creative, unexpected lighting can seriously up your kitchen design game (and it’s a legit way to update your kitchen). Consider woven baskets cleverly turned upside down and strung with a light kit from the hardware store. Those outdoor lanterns you espied at the flea market and can’t stop daydreaming about? Bring them into your all-white kitchen for a single rustic touch that will make your space feel original. (Then brace yourself for the endless compliments for your creative chops and impeccable taste.) If you’re drawn to more traditional fixtures, maybe try a creative application—hung in a grid, or multiples in a row for bigger impact.
In a nutshell, what a statement necklace does for a great outfit, unique lighting does for a kitchen. Think of it as icing on that delicious birthday cake.
Soaring vaulted ceilings call for oversize fixtures. Here, a pair of bigger-is-better basket pendants light up the long island (once an old workbench), while a more petite version hangs above the sink.
A group of four simple, flush-mount fixtures with a slightly larger center fixture means every inch of the kitchen is properly lit. The symmetrical arrangement within the exposed beams adds even more visual interest to the ceiling. Pro tip: Install fixtures on their own switches so you can turn lights in certain areas on and off as you desire.
Keeping finishes consistent unifies the different lighting styles in this Kentucky kitchen, as seen here in the brass wall sconce above the open shelving and the aged brass-topped pendant above the sink. Brass brackets from Rejuvenation, drawer pulls, and countertop accessories pull the sophisticated look together.
A substantial lantern is a grounding design element in this light and airy kitchen. Typically seen outdoors, this style is showing up more and more inside. For an even bigger impact, paint a vintage fixture a bold color in a glossy finish.
Salvaged school house-style, milk glass pendants are positioned above the island, sink, and breakfast area in this kitchen. They enhance other neutral features like the white apron sink and are a nod to the home’s overall nostalgic vibe.
Not all kitchen lighting has to be purely functional. How about adding a little something that’s just pure fun? This red arrow marquee light adds loads of personality to this already colorful Texas kitchen.
A brass pendant, fittingly salvaged from a shipyard, is a statement piece in this small kitchen and a tribute to the home’s waterfront setting.
In a house built with almost all recycled materials, why not keep going when it comes to the lighting? This matching set of found objects was fashioned into one-of-a kind pulley pendants for a unique focal point over the island’s countertop. Pro tip: When bulbs are exposed, try the more attractive Edison bulbs, which are now widely available.
An industrial clamp light brings cool shape, color, character, and texture to this kitchen workspace. And best of all, it’s adjustable, so it sheds light wherever you need it. A barn light in the same hue hangs overhead.
Super sleek fixtures are a surprising touch in this most-rustic-of-all kitchens. The pendants and the swing arm lamps lend an unexpected contrast to the reclaimed wood and antique stove.
In a newly renovated kitchen, this vintage industrial trio of lights makes for an instant focal point. Colored glass insets create a muted pop against the mostly white space. Bonus: The pulleys still work, which makes for adjustable task lighting. Pro tip: When shopping for vintage lighting, always buy extras if they’re available. Parts and pieces from additional fixtures may come in handy down the road.
Customized from a wire basket turned upside down, this three-bulb fixture makes for an interesting conversation starter. The patina of the basket and matching chain play off the copper-y colors found on the hood trim, shelf brackets, and drawer pulls for a cohesive farmhouse aesthetic.
A symmetrical arrangement of clear glass pendants creates order, adds sparkle, and allows an unobstructed view through the trio of windows. Because it almost disappears, clear glass is a good choice for small kitchens—and it doesn’t compete with other decorative elements.
Industrial ceiling lights from a local Mexican restaurant are paired with a more feminine shabby-chic iron chandelier painted white, taking the collected vibe of this kitchen to the next level.
Homeowner Nora Murphy has a little fun with pattern and color on her chandelier’s drum shades come the holidays. Shown here with tartan shades, this iron chandelier by Richard Scofield is equally as stunning without the tiny toppers.
Brass picture lights illuminate traditional kitchen workspaces, as well as the homeowner’s art collection (a nice personal touch in the kitchen). Sculptural sconces light up the sink area.
This pendant light from a decommissioned ship looks right at home in this Ohio lake house. The aged metal top and clock’s frame add a little edge to this all-white space. Pro tip: Wrap unsightly cords with rope or fabric for a more finished look
Let Mother Nature do the work during daylight hours. Leave windows bare to let the sun shine in. When the sun goes down, rely on pretty pendants and recessed lighting on dimmers to cast a glow.
A crystal chandelier and a tall, slender table lamp nestled into the corner give this kitchen an elegant feel that’s in keeping with the rest of the house. The tailored black lamp shade is especially chic. Bonus: Moody lamplight is especially pleasing at night.
A pair of petite twisted iron sconces with shades flanking the window allows for the maximum amount of cabinetry, as well as proper lighting for dish duty. Tucking in lights under the cabinet is another smart way to illuminate hardworking spaces and take advantage of every precious square inch.